Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lena Dunham fully is committed to “fully”

Not long ago, I quoted Lena Dunham’s use of the (originally) Australian “fully” as a more all-purpose emphasizer than Americans’ use of the word. Now here she is again in yesterday’s New York Times, talking about when, as a teenager, a therapist asked her to picture a soothing location:

“I fully just imagined Eloise’s home at the Plaza.”

(Heloise Eloise was the heroine of a series of picture books who, indeed, lived at the Plaza Hotel.)

Seems like Dunham is on a one-woman crusade to get this word some traction.

A hard man is good to find

I thought that alleged Mae West quote might get your attention…

Back in May 2013, I wrote that I didn’t expect to come across hard man (BrE for “tough guy”) in the U.S. again. It did take almost two years, but in any event, on NPR this morning, host Scott Simon described the captain of the U-boat that sank the Lusitania as “the kind of guy that you might actually, you know, like to have schnapps with, but a very hard man.”

On Google News, all the recent uses of the phrase are British, but I found one interesting. This was an article from the Daily Mail about Tom Benson, the owner of the (American) football team the New Orleans Saints. The article anonymously quotes “a close family source” as saying, ‘Tom has always been a hard man.”

I wouldn’t trust anonymous sources generally, even less so in the Daily Mail. But when a presumably American anonymous source starts throwing around British expressions in that English rag, well, as we say in New York, fuhgeddaboutit.

“Fully,” again

Fully gets some celebrity love:

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(Thanks to @mariayagoda.)

“No joy”

The ever-observant Wes Davis writes, “It may be my imagination, but I think I’ve been hearing Americans using ‘no joy’ in the Brit sense of ‘no luck.'”

I was not aware of that sense, but sure enough, the OED’s definition 1.g. of “joy” reads:colloq. Result, satisfaction, success. Esp. with negative, and freq. ironical.” The first relevant citation is from a 1946 book, Escape to Danger (and the quotation marks suggest a fresh coinage). “At 9.15 the workers had been down nearly forty minutes and still ‘no joy’.” Then from Stanley Price’s 1961 Just for Record: ” I..tried to get a taxi. No joy, so back into the studio.” Those and all subsequent citations appear to be British. There is also a Canadian shoegazing band called No Joy, formed in 2009.

However, as Wes noticed, the expression is creeping into American usage. I found several recent examples on Google News. Boston Globe tech columnist Hiawatha Bray (born in Chicago) writes in a recent piece: “I’ve asked Facebook for a comment, but no joy so far.”

And Tom Maxwell (born in Baltimore), in a Salon review of BBC Music’s video of “God Only Knows,” wrote last year:

Elton John, looking pained, covered in computer-generated blue butterflies, singing, “You’ll never need to doubt it.”  From the look of things, he should be singing, “Everything is satisfactual,” but no joy.

There is also a specifically American use, at least according to Urban Dictionary. A 2006 post offers this definition: “In air intercept, a code meaning, ‘I have been unsuccessful,’ or, ‘I have no information.'”

A later poster elaborates. “When a control tower advises a pilot that he has an approaching aircraft. If the pilot does not see the approaching aircraft, after a few seconds, he can reply ‘no joy.'”

If I could find out exactly how and when “no joy” entered U.S. military parlance, I would be a happy man.


Lynne Murphy, proprietress of the Separated by a Common Language blog, has since 2006 selected the most noteworthy words that have traveled from the U.S. to the U.K, and the other way round (AmE: “around”). Here are her past U.K. to U.S. selections:

2006: wanker 
2007: (baby) bump
2008:  to vet (e.g. a candidate)
2009: to go missing
2010: ginger (redhead)
2011: kettling
2012: bollocks
2013: bum

The links go to her posts. I have covered all except “kettling,” which I confess I wasn’t aware of until today; you can find my entries by putting the words into the “Search” function.

Drum roll, please. This year Lynne chose both an adjective and a noun: “dodgy” and “gap year” (links are to my posts). And her U.S. to U.K. winners? “Awesome” and “bake-off.” Awesome.

Couldn’t resist…

Posting Scottish tennis star Andy Murray’s Twitter photo.

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Note: Here’s my post on chuffed. I’ve written a lot about various NOOBy uses of “bits” (for example here and here) but not Murray’s use, for which Americans would substitute “to pieces,” if anything. Nor has “jumper” (aka “sweater) made any inroads here, although, come to think of it, I bet Nancy Friedman has made some twee retail sightings.

“The B-Side”

… is not a NOOB but rather the title of my new book, due out 22 January 22 and pictured above. To order, all you have to do is click.